Food Friday: Holiday Leftovers

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I just had a tentative peek inside the refrigerator, which is packed and groaning with leftovers and good intentions.

I honestly meant to bake the annual Fourth of July cake yesterday, but Mr. Friday was using the oven to bake ribs. All afternoon. Half of a rack of leftover ribs is contained by a large Baggie, and it is taking over a shelf in the fridge. Also two pints of blueberries, and a pint of raspberries for my holiday-themed cake. Not to mention the large container of heavy whipping cream. The stuff is packed in there. Tight.

Teetering on a top shelf, next to the container of whipping cream, is a quarter sheet cake pan, still half full of Ghiradelli dark chocolate cake, slathered with the best buttercream icing I have EVER made. No wonder we are Weeble People! There are two pint containers of blueberries (One which I upended and scattered all over the kitchen floor on the Fourth in the heat of battle. The takeaway – Luke the wonder dog has no interest in blueberries.) and one of raspberries. There is a wedge of watermelon, and half a cantaloupe.

Sitting boldly in the middle of the fridge is a huge mixing bowl full of potato salad. And right next to that is a Tupperware container of cole slaw; a gallon o’cole slaw.

Crammed into a drawer are half a dozen ears of corn, and an elastic-bound bunch of asparagus.

Also on the top shelf are rye bread, a can of raspberry La Croix fancy fizzy water, a stainless steel tub of extra buttercream frosting, three bottles of store-bought salad dressing, and one Pyrex cup of homemade vinaigrette. I am not happy with any salad dressings these days, and am searching far and wide for a good recipe. Keep watching this spot.

Scattered into any nooks are bottles of middling white wine, and in the crannies are the cheap white wine, milk, Diet Coke and mayonnaise.

There is a package of salted butter, and another of unsalted butter. Also eggs; brown and white.

The Fourth of July cake goes in the Might Have Been a Good Idea category of good intentions paving that slick route to hell for me: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/flag-cake-recipe-1941624, thus the raspberries and blueberries. I have read that Ina Garten and Martha Stewart can’t agree who first came up with the now ubiquitous Fourth of July flag cake. I am inclined to believe Ina Garten, but only because she and I grew up in the same town. Martha was late to the Connecticut scene.

Since I could not bake anyone’s Fourth of July cake, we managed to get by with slices of leftover chocolate cake. There are still quite a lot of cake leftover, so stop on by later.

Mr. Friday stepped away from the grill this Fourth of July, and brought his cooking skills inside. It was the heady combination of a new, sure-fire baby back ribs recipe, and the stinking temperatures outside. And it was easier for him to monitor the ribs while they cooked, from the comfort of his sofa, and the World Cup games he had TiVo-ed… https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/220987/baked-bbq-baby-back-ribs/

No Fourth of July could be complete without someone’s mother’s potato salad. This year I chose my mother’s. Of course.

Potato Salad

I don’t always have green onions – Vidalias work just fine. No red potatoes? Go for Russets. A little fresh thyme? Why not? It is dependable, tasty and can be adapted and stretched to feed the masses. Just add more potatoes, and more mayonnaise. Particularly fine for large picnic gatherings. Plus you can make it in the morning, and it is just right by suppertime.

• 2 pounds little new, red potatoes
• 1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise thinned with milk
• 1 bunch green onions, chopped
• Sea salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes until tender. While warm (but not still steaming hot – I have melted my fingerprints by slicing too early and my life of crime may start any minute now) slice potatoes and begin to layer them in a large bowl – one layer of potatoes, then a handful of green onions and salt and pepper. Pour on some of the mayonnaise mixture. Repeat. Gently stir until all the potatoes are coated. You may need to add more mayonnaise mixture when you are ready to serve, as the potatoes absorb it.

Also necessary for summer holiday feasts is cole slaw. My mother’s won. Again.

My Mother’s Boring (Yet Reliably Deelish) Cole Slaw

• 1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise (Duke’s if you live father south)
• 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar vinegar
• 1 tablespoon celery seed (not celery salt)
• 1/4 tsp kosher salt
• 1 half teaspoon coarse black pepper
• Some people add carrots for color. I don’t think my mother would approve.
• 1/2 largish head of cabbage, green or purple, your choice, you will have to live with the consequences. You will be dissecting the cabbage to make workable pieces for slicing.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, celery seed, and salt until smooth.
Mix in the shredded cabbage and fold over with spatula until completely coated. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours, or overnight.
It is always better the next day.

We were in California last month and had the great pleasure of eating at the Bouchon Bistro. I bought the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook which is a beautiful, yet weighty, tome with intimidatingly precise recipes. I thought I would be whipping out professional-looking macarons and pain au chocolat immediately upon our return home. Instead, I grabbed a box of Ghiradelli dark chocolate cake mix, and turned to my friends at Food52 for icing guidance. I don’t know why I entertained the notion that I would find time, or oven space, to bake a Fourth of July cake. The chocolate cake is something we know and love, and was perfect for watching Macy’s jubilant fireworks, before we returned to our Independence Day film fest.

Basic Buttercream Icing
https://food52.com/recipes/70448-buttercream-frosting-adapted-from-wilton

Tonight we will not be tossing our usual Friday night pizza. Instead I am rooting around in the freezer for some hot dogs. We will top them with leftover slaw, and have a side of potato salad, and yet another slice of chocolate cake. Oh, and some of that cheap white wine. We need to clear out some space. Happy July!

“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”
― Calvin Trillin

Food Friday: Cookout Season

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Summer is here, and with all those hot, languid afternoons come the cookouts. As my Gentle Readers will remember, I live for summer and delegating the cooking responsibilities to Mr. Friday, who actually enjoys standing outside on the back porch, in 90-degree weather, hovering over a hot gas grill, tenderly flipping burgers, adjusting ears of corn, and prodding susurrus steaks. It is a fine seasonal division of labor.

I get to stay inside, enjoying cool air and cooler wine. I do my outdoor bit first thing in the morning. After I walk Luke the wonder dog for half an hour, I spray all exposed wobbly flesh with insect repellent, and then I charge out into the mosquito-infested side yard to water and weed the raised garden bed. And I harvest the crops.

This small garden has been our first proper vegetable garden in years. We had been getting by with container gardens of spindly tomatoes and etiolated bean plants. This year we are jokingly worried that Jack’s beanstalk will be tapping on the kitchen window soon, as the bean plants have grown up and out and soon we will find a magic goose in the back yard, pecking around with the robins. And yet – we have only harvested five measly beans. There must be more to this gardening than just planting seeds and rigging up strings for the beans to climb. We might have to analyze the soil, and consider when we should have planted the beans. In the meantime, though, the tomato plants are going to town.

We have been enjoying a surfeit of tomatoes: heirloom tomatoes, patio tomatoes, Tom’s Big Boy tomatoes. There are a dozen ripening tomatoes lining one of the kitchen windowsills right now. This is the second dozen that I have picked this week. It is probably just as well that we didn’t plant zucchini this year, or we would have been reduced to even more of a suburban stereotype than we already are. I guess this means I am finally going to have to introduce myself to the new neighbors, and hope that they like tomatoes.

Consequently I have had to do research and find more to do with tomatoes. I can’t just quarter them and throw them on top of a bed of crunchy iceberg. Luckily I can reduce our considerable tomato inventory if I make something large enough to share at a Fourth of July cookout. I have been pouring over this handy dandy cookbook,The Southerner’s Cookbook, from Garden & Gun Magazine. I love the folks at Food52, but the clever cooks from G&G indulge in gracious living. At least in the summer. (This is a killer cocktail: https://gardenandgun.com/slideshow/summer-south-20-must-try-recipes/7/)

If you, too, have tomato overload, try this recipe. It was divine. Even if I did have to steam an ear of corn, and cook two pieces of bacon. I always need something to complain about…

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Green Goddess Buttermilk Dressing

(SERVES 6)
6 ripe garden tomatoes, sliced inch thick
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
Kernels from 1 cooked ear Silver Queen corn
2 thick bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
1 tablespoon sliced fresh chives

Green Goddess Buttermilk Dressing

(MAKES ABOUT ¾ CUP)
1/3 cup whole buttermilk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sliced fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon

For the Heirloom Tomato Salad:  Arrange the tomato and cucumber slices artfully on a platter. Drizzle with half of the dressing. Sprinkle with the corn kernels and bacon. Garnish with the chives. Serve with extra dressing on the side. (Any remaining dressing will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 week.)

For the Green Goddess Buttermilk Dressing: Combine the buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, chives, dill, and tarragon in a blender. Blend until smooth.

https://gardenandgun.com/slideshow/summer-south-20-must-try-recipes/1/

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”
– Lewis Grizzard

Food Friday: Out of the Mouths of Babes

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An impressive array of fruits and vegetables are ripening this very minute. As you sit reading this on your phone, I hope you have got some reusable shopping backs in the back of your car, and you are ready to hit the farmers’ markets with enthusiasm. You need to go stock up on blueberries and cherries. Right now. No delay. Because you can make the easiest desserts without worrying about anything but the deliciousness that comes with summer fruits.

I have finally reached an age where my son can share his own advice and recipes. This is one of the wonders of overlapping lives. Had I known this about him back when we were pacing the floor early in the morning, when he was wailing and wouldn’t sleep, when I discovered that the farm report on TV was a real thing, and not just a myth, it might have cheered my sleep-deprived self a little, and lifted my weary soul knowing that one day he would grow and thrive and be much taller than I was. That after the dark despair of those nights, I would one day be given a recipe for blueberry cobbler by a mewling, puking, outraged infant. Imagine that!

Chez Panisse’s Blueberry Cobbler (courtesy of the New York Times)
https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/9291-chez-panisses-blueberry-cobbler

INGREDIENTS
THE BERRIES:
4 ½ cups fresh blueberries
⅓ cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
THE DOUGH:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
¾ cup heavy cream, plus additional for serving, if desired

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. To prepare the berries, place in a bowl and toss with the sugar and flour. Set aside.
To make the dough, mix the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in a bowl. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cream and mix lightly, just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Put the blueberries in a 1 1/2-quart gratin or baking dish. Make patties out of the dough, 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/2-inch thick. Arrange them over the top of the berries. Bake until the topping is brown and the juices bubble thickly around it, about 35 to 40 minutes.
Let cool slightly. Serve warm, with cream to pour on top, if desired.

Sadly, there is a hitch to my fairy tale: I prefer cherry crumble. I am not a big fan of baked blueberries, unless they come wrapped in a nice warm muffin. Forgive me, Tall One. Let me suggest that you try baking this cherry crumble this weekend, as one adult to another.

Fresh Cherry Crumble
(Thanks you, https://www.countryhillcottage.com/cherry-crumble/)

For cherry filling
2 lb / approximately 6 cups sweet cherries, cleaned and pitted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch

For the hazelnut streusel
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, cane sugar
1cup ground hazelnuts
2/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For decorating
confectioners’ sugar for decorating
1) Prep work
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Grease the ramekins or pie dish with butter, vegetable, oil or baking spray.

2) Cook the cherries
Add the cherries, granulated sugar, and corn starch into a heavy bottom saucepan and stir until well combined. Let the cherries macerate for 20 minutes to 1 hour, so the fruits soften and draw juice. If the cherries don’t draw a lot of moisture, add 3/4 – 1 cup water or cherry juice.  Then cook the cherries for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cherries soften, and the mixture thickens. Stir constantly, so the fruit doesn’t burn at the bottom of the saucepan.

3) Make the hazelnut streusel
Add the all-purpose flour, brown sugar, hazelnuts, cinnamon, and cold butter cubes into a large mixing bowl. And knead into a crumbly mixture. Use your fingertips to squeeze together the dough to form large clumps.

4) Bake the crumble
Spoon the cherry mixture into the prepared baking dish(es) and top with the streusel. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve warm or cold with cream, or ice cream.

I’m not trying to have the last word. Really. I’ll make the Blueberry Cobbler for Mr. Friday. And he will be amazed, just like I was, that everyone is growing up and changing.

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

Food Friday: Father’s Day

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We have a holiday family tradition. If the holiday is not food-centric (i.e. Thanksgiving=turkey) we usually try to have a good, buttery, messy, celebratory lobster dinner, complete with corn, beer and lots of laughter. I think a lot of laughter is called for these days, and so we will celebrate mightily on Father’s Day as we toss some bugs into the lobster pot. It will be an Instagram moment!

I read a lovely tribute to Anthony Bourdain the other day. Actually, every story about him has been a moving paean. What an incredible force of nature with an appetite for all the wonderful and mundane that the world offers up. I’m adding a link to a story about his daughter, and a food choice she made which delighted him. Lobster used to be the working man’s food of New England, not fussy or rarefied, or expensive. No candlelight is needed, nor is there any call for a maitre d’. I think Bourdain would approve of a simple lobster fest for Father’s Day. He would enthuse. Read this and see if you don’t agree with me: https://www.bonappetit.com/people/chefs/article/ever-wonder-how-anthony-bourdain-came-to-be-anthony-bourdain-and-what-he-looked-like-in-1972

A two-pound lobster, serving one, fetches $9.99 per pound this summer. (Conversely, ground chuck is $3.99 per pound, and I bet I can get four hamburgers from that pound.) Before lobster became a pricy treat, it was considered food good enough for servants and prison inmates. Colonial dock workers had a contract stating that they would NOT be fed lobster more than three times a week. People fed lobster to their cats. (https://psmag.com/economics/how-lobster-got-fancy-59440) Lobsters were abundant, easily caught, and simple to prepare. Lobster grew in popularity as the nation expanded west, and it began popping up on restaurant menus in hotels and on trains. It developed cachet. And as lobsters are not caught in South Dakota or Ohio, both the demand and appeal grew.

We steam our lobsters in a huge honking pot. Heartless as we are, we usually stage a lobster race on the kitchen floor. Our children have been deeply scarred as they watched the race participants being tossed into pots of boiling water.

Choose a pot large enough to hold all the lobsters comfortably; do not crowd them. A 4 to 5 gallon pot can handle 6 to 8 pounds of lobsters.
Put 2 inches of salted water in the bottom of a large kettle.
Set a steamer inside the pot and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.
Add the live lobsters one at a time, cover pot, and start timing.

It takes about 10 minutes for a 1-pound lobster, 12 minutes for 1 1/4 pounds, 18 minutes for 2-pounds. The shells will be bright red. Be sure to melt plenty of butter. https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/perfectly-steamed-lobster

Or, you can broil lobster tails: https://sweetcsdesigns.com/10-minute-perfect-broiled-lobster-tails-recipe/

You can skip right to the lobster roll and discover if you come from the butter camp or the mayonnaise camp: https://www.chowhound.com/recipes/lobster-rolls-29308

Or you can get Food52 fancy and poach them in oil: https://food52.com/recipes/4155-olive-oil-poached-fish-or-shellfish

I’m sure you and your group will find the ideal lobster recipe, and will write your own family’s chapter about lobster races on the kitchen floor. Enjoy your Father’s Day. Don’t spend money on a tie, buy a lobster! It will be much more memorable! Grab the gusto and torment your children!

“Lobsters display all three of the classical biological characteristics of an insect, namely: 1. It has way more legs than necessary. 2. There is no way you would ever pet it. 3. It does not respond to simple commands such as ‘Here, boy!’”
-Dave Barry

https://www.history.com/news/a-taste-of-lobster-history

Food Friday: Summer Prep

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Now that we are finally drying out from all the May and early June showers, it seems appropriate to turn our thoughts to summer and the last day of school. Faithful (or long-suffering) Food Friday readers will remember that once the heat of summer sets in, I do my best to skeedaddle out of the kitchen. I do not enjoy hovering around the stove when I could be lounging gracefully in the shade, clad in floaty white linen, reading important books, and drinking cool wine.

The reality of my humdrum existence, however, means that I still have to plan for night-time meals, because Mr. Friday must be fed. And so I must find foods that meet the basic summer criteria: one-dish meals which don’t heat up the kitchen. And despite my deeply-flawed and lazy-damn-git nature, I do enjoy sitting down at the end of the day, sharing a meal, and catching up. I will even open a can of tuna for that man.

I do rely on a heavy rotation of salads in the summer. Last night we had a chicken salad that is always in a summer staple. I’m not sure it serves any healthy purpose – it contains mayonnaise, bacon, and croutons fried in bacon. But it is deelish. I boiled the chicken while I was eating a lunch sandwich made from Monday night’s leftover tuna salad. (Mayonnaise is a valuable commodity in our house in the summer.)

Chris’s Chicken Club Salad
serves 4

1/2 pound bacon, crisp and crumbled (save the fat)
1 cup bread cubes
3 cups cooked chicken, cubed and chilled
2 large tomatoes, quartered (or a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved)
1 head Romaine, torn (not cut) into bite-size piece

Dressing:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoning Salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon capers

Sauté the bread cubes in the bacon fat, tossing constantly to toast all the sides. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with garlic powder, Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, and dried basil. Put the chicken in a bowl, cover with dressing, add the capers and toss to coat each piece with dressing. Chill for half an hour. Arrange lettuce on individual plates and mound the chicken salad on the lettuce. Crumble the bacon on top, surround with tomato quarters and top each with the crunchy, wonderful croutons. Serve with a delectable Chardonnay. Yummm. Perfect for picnics.

Here is a variation on that salad which might actually be good for you:

Kosher salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 cup low fat sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 radishes
2 stalks celery
1 small green apple
2 scallions

In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise and salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat.
Add the radishes, celery, apple and scallions and mix to combine.

It is a spicier salad, incorporating peppery radishes. Normally I eat radishes sitting out on the back porch in the summer, filching them one by one from a bowl filled with ice water, the spicy radish bite tempered by the icy coolth of the water. And maybe sometimes I’ll be fancy, and swipe a schmear of butter on a radish, using the fancy French butter for something other than warm bread.

This is a very continental approach to take with radishes, which appeals to my languorous inner life: wash and gently dry a handful of radishes. Serve the radishes with slightly softened high fat content butter and a bowl of fleur de sel sea salt. Maybe it is Saturday night, and you could add some crusty French bread and the casual insouciance of a glass or two of Prosecco. Yumsters.

If you feel the ridiculous compulsion to serve a hot meal, here is an interesting pasta, with radishes added at the end: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/strozzapreti-carbonara-with-radishes

Radishes are high in Vitamin C, are low cal (about 1 calorie per radish, until you add the schmear of butter) and provide cheerful color and bite to an everyday salad. You will thank me come August, when your crowd is surly, and will not eat one more cool vegetable, and is screaming for meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Until then, we have the radishes, chicken salads, and the occasional glass of wine.

Here are some radish varieties to tickle your tongue on your way to the farmers’ market: Watermelon, White Icicle, Cherry Belle (what we usually see in the grocery store), Sparkler White Tip, French Breakfast, Easter egg, Black Spanish, White Beauty, Early Scarlet Gold, Daikon Long White, Fire and Ice and China Rose.

Here are some more radish recipes: https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/ingredients/article/radish-guide

“Long stormy spring-time, wet contentious April, winter chilling the lap of very May; but at length the season of summer does come.”
-Thomas Carlyle

Food Friday: Hulling Strawberries

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I waste an enormous amount of each strawberry that I cut, and I bet you do, too. I lop off the end with sharp knife, flying headlong into imaginary conflict with my family line of maternal cooks. My mother would be ashamed at the food I toss out, and her mother would be amazed at all the food options we enjoy in the twenty-first century. Imagine her reaction to boneless chicken breasts, kept in the freezer, compared to the chickens kept in her back yard.

I am the product of Depression-era children. I try to waste not, recycle, and compost; fine efforts which our parents strove to impress upon us. I guess I am inherently lazy, as are most people. There is a glass strawberry jam jar soaking in the kitchen sink as I write this. I want to clean the jar thoroughly enough to go in the recycling bin. My mother would have bought a brand of jam that came in a jar suitable for recycling as a drinking glass. My grandmother would have put up that jam herself, and would be washing the jar to re-use it as she got ready for the June strawberry jam session. I suppose the least I can do is to prepare my strawberries a little more prudently.

Growing up we used a strawberry huller that my mother purchased cheaply with great delight from a mail order catalogue. It was a simple tool, made from a single piece of springy stainless steel, and it pinched out the top of the strawberry with a single pinch. Easy peasy. You can find it here: https://www.kitchenniche.ca/fox-run-strawberry-huller-p-216.html?currency=USD

But it is not the twenty-first century way to have a simple, easy product to do your bidding. You need a YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jj2F_VGVlMc And it still looks as if you need someone to talk you through your first quart or two of strawberries. It does not look very intuitive.

Or you can see many, more expensive hullers: https://moo.review/strawberry-huller/

Bon Appétit magazine has an entire feature about cleaning strawberries without any waste. Heavens to Betsy. https://www.bonappetit.com/story/how-to-cut-strawberries

And before they take your straws away, here is another way to hull strawberries from Food and Wine: https://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/2014/5/26/how-to-hull-strawberries-with-a-straw

There are six pages of hullers and parers and corers and pitters on Amazon. I think I need a strawberry slicer now. And definitely a $9.95 OXO Tot Grape Cutter. So many gadgets, so little drawer space! https://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=strawberry+huller&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=176967133654&hvpos=1t1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=8258634778484500795&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9010169&hvtargid=kwd-540020285&ref=pd_sl_as2koq1er_e

Amanda Hesser, our Food52 genius sage, was quoted in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago: “Once you go down the road of having a kale leaf stripper,” she said, “where do you draw the line?” Where indeed?

I think we will do fine with a sharp knife, and a whiff of nostalgia, remembering our mothers and grandmothers as we get ready for summer to whip around the corner. I will be a little more careful when preparing strawberries, because we just can’t enjoy summer without strawberry shortcake, or a Fourth of July strawberry, blueberry and whipped cream sheet cake, can we?

https://food52.com/blog/22360-slab-rhubarb-shortcake-for-a-crowd

http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/barefoot-contessas-flag-cake-217440 – substitute strawberries for the raspberries. It might give you an excuse to use that new strawberry slicer.

“One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Food Friday: Memorial Day Cookouts

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How will you be spending your Memorial Day weekend? Will you be marching in a parade? Or will you be surreptitiously trying to toss some Redcoats off the Sultana and into the Chester River? Will you be observing a more solemn occasion and take some flowers to decorate a family grave? Or will you be stuck in traffic attempting to flee the metropolis to get to a warm sandy beach, with ice cream stands and happy families frolicking in the water? There are so many possibilities for this upcoming weekend, especially now that you are allowed to wear white again.

I love ritual celebrations. I love small town parades. Once, back in our misspent youth, Mr. Friday and his chums had a martini stand at the annual Rowayton (Connecticut) Memorial Day Parade. (Another year they distributed Bloody Marys. They were quite the popular young gentlemen.) And back in those days, when one could still drink with impunity before noon, we sat in lawn chairs with martinis in hand, and cheered as the Scouts, the school marching bands, the firefighters, some antique cars, town officials and proud veterans paraded past us. And then we went to a Memorial Day cookout in a park, under the trees, on the river. It was a warm and sunny day, as most happy hazy memories tend to be remembered.

There are many ways to have a Memorial Day cookout. You can go fancy, or you can take the easy route. Guess which I suggest? There is no need to get fancy: apple pie, hot dogs and hamburgers are swell ceremonial American foods and are great for any Memorial Day picnic. I usually whip up a batch of potato salad, but a bag of Utz sour cream and onion potato chips is never out of place! Is it too hot to bake a pie? Just bring out some Bergers. You will be a hero. Or slice open a frosty cold and refreshing watermelon. Put beers and glass bottles of Coke in a bucket of ice, but don’t forget the cheap white wine. I would not suggest martinis at this advanced age, though…

One must be mindful of our visiting foodies. One pescatarian would prefer cool and delicate seasonal fruits, vegetables, and sticks and twigs, please. No meat. No chicken. Alas, we have outgrown skillful watermelon seed spitting, but this is a sophisticated alternative: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/magazine/watermelon-burgers-with-cheese.html?_r=0

Bon Appétit fruit salad: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/fruit-salad-fennel-watercress-smoked-salt

You want to simplify in the summer, here are some more handy dandy ideas from The New York Times cooking whizzes. If you are going to be cooking on your summer vacation you really need to reduce and minimize your time in the kitchen. There are waves to catch, birds to watch, hikes to undertake, vistas to appreciate, and a glider in a corner of the cool, dark, screened-in porch with a good book are all calling out to you! Get out and enjoy yourself. Vacation cooking: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/10/dining/a-minimalist-approach-to-cooking-on-vacation.html?_r=0

Next weekend we will still face the bourgeois dining dilemma – what to have for dinner, again? Let’s find some more delicious hamburgers to cook. Hamburgers never grow old. Cook Out Season from Bon Appétit: http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/article/grilling-best-burgers

When it gets too buggy outside Sunday night, wander into the house and turn on the TV. There is nothing like a concert performed with pomp and circumstance and aplomb to make you feel proud. http://www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert/home/

“I’m still passionately interested in what my fellow humans are up to. For me, a day spent monitoring the passing parade is a day well-spent.”
– Garry Trudeau

Food Friday: Royal Celebrations; Fancy or Plain?

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Early tomorrow morning I will haul myself out of bed, and will sit in my ever so inelegant, commoner jim-jams and watch the royal wedding of Prince Harry and American-born Meghan Markel on television. This promising spectacle is happening half a world away in England, but there are lots of American royal enthusiasts. Like me. I will be sporting a fashionable trifle of a hat – a perky, feathered fascinator, which will elevate the plebeian social status I have so far enjoyed as a solidly middle-class American suburbanite, who, despite the travails of our Revolutionary War mothers and fathers, I remain in thrall with England, and the British royal family. I like the royals. They are fancy, I am ordinary.

“God bless us, every one!” to quote Charles Dickens. And God save Queen Elizabeth. I imagine she will be ready for gin o’clock to roll around tomorrow, considering all the last minute antics of the extended Markel family. The queen is probably looking forward to having a big slice of the now-famous elderberry and lemon wedding cake, baked by another California woman, Claire Ptak. (https://gatherjournal.com/notebook/meet-claire-ptak-violet-cakes/) Before the big event, though, the royals might need a good traditional English fry up: a cholesterol-inducing mélange of eggs, bacon, fried bread, beans, mushrooms and sausages.

And how about you? Will you hold out for precious and delicious tea cakes in the afternoon, or will you prepare a scrummie breakfast to devour in the early hours, as the sun rises here, and the horse-drawn coaches trot through the ancient town of Windsor at noon?

The queen and Prince Philip enjoy a simple breakfast together, says BT Magazine: “The spread includes cereal, yoghurt and maple syrup, but Her Majesty likes to have toast with light marmalade, which she sometimes shares with the corgis.” So you can have a rather abstemious meal, like Her Majesty. (Of course, just to keep her wits about her, the queen is known to have a quick drink before lunch – gin and Dubonnet. Imagine how productive you would be in the afternoon if you adopted that regime!)

A more traditional meal is the full English breakfast. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/only-in-britain/the-15-most-british-foods-ever/full-english-breakfast/ This is a meal that will see you through an entire day of royal drama.

Or you can ratchet it up a bit, and enjoy the purely American snack of Cheetos, paired with Sancerre wine. Apparently it is the taste du jour. http://www.grubstreet.com/2018/05/cheetos-wine-pairing-sancerre.html And since you haven’t been invited to the wedding reception, or the after-party, you can drown your sorrows in the $60 bottle of Sancerre.

Of course, you should bake in advance. Undoubtedly the royal wedding cake has been ready for a couple of days, installed in a safe place of honor in the Great Kitchen at Windsor Castle. Feel free to start baking: https://www.hgtv.com/design/make-and-celebrate/entertaining/lemon-elderflower-cake We’ll trot by after the ceremony.

I think my family would prefer the simpler Chocolate Biscuit Cake enjoyed by Prince William as his bachelor cake: http://theroyalchef.com/the-royal-wedding-cake-recipe/ We are all chocolate fiends, and love refrigerator cakes. I wonder if the royals have ever eaten a Famous Wafer Cake – our summer go-to recipe. http://www.snackworks.com/recipe/famous-chocolate-refrigerator-roll-53331.aspx

Afternoon tea at Fortum and Mason is a ritual and rite in London. Social climbing folks not invited to the royal wedding might be hiding out in F&M’s delightful tearoom Saturday afternoon. I hope they have booked ahead. I love the tiny cakes and sandwiches and pâtisseries and all the sugar and jam and cream. I also love The Great British Bake Off. It is the most reassuring comfort food, prepared by the nicest people in the world. https://www.fortnumandmason.com/restaurants/afternoon-tea Watching it takes the sting out of staying home, instead of dancing away with the cool young royals. I’d probably be stuck with Camilla.

Here is a short history of royal wedding cakes from The New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/annals-of-gastronomy/prince-harry-and-meghan-markles-wedding-cake-breaks-with-centuries-of-royal-tradition

Plain or fancy? Aristo or American? Sweet and creamy, or good and greasy? If you tune into the wedding tomorrow, what will you have for breakfast? Tea and toast? Full English? Tea and cakes? Cheetos and Sancerre? Dubbonet? Cold pizza?

Best wishes to the happy couple!

“Love and eggs are best when they are fresh.”
—Russian proverb

Food Friday: Mother’s Day (Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You!)

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Mother’s Day can be such an emotional minefield. My mother never thought it was a big deal, and would protest if we squandered our allowances on store-bought cards. I recently unearthed an encyclopedic collection of our badly drawn Mother’s Day cards, Valentines and birthday cards that my mother had kept in a shoe box for all these years. So maybe it was a more important event to her than she led on. Keep that in mind, that sweet homemade gestures might be best. (Full disclosure: There is also the fact that my parents never ever threw away a single piece of paper. To paraphrase Russell Baker, our childhood New England house will soon sink because of all the National Geographics stored in the attic.)

If your drawing abilities are limited, you might try cooking breakfast for the mothers in your life. This is always a welcome start to the day. I remember fondly a few Mother’s Day mornings when I was not the first out of bed. I do not drink coffee, luckily for my crew, so the first hint for me of an impending breakfast in bed was the sound of ice clinking into a glass. Ah, a Diet Coke and some cereal. As their culinary skills improved, my children graduated to toast, English muffins, bagels, pancakes and eventually, French toast. And we all decided that breakfast in the kitchen was just as cheering as one in bed, as long as I didn’t have to prepare the meal. I still had to clean up, because one cannot ask for the stars when one has enjoyed bacon cooked by someone else.

This is my oft-hauled-out-of-my-recipe-Dropbox-file.

We always have day old French bread (in fact we have a collection of French bread in the freezer – we will never starve) and it always seems a sin and a shame to pitch it, so this is a delightful and economical way to be frugal consumers. And who doesn’t love the added kick of the rum on an eventful Sunday morning…

We don’t measure anymore – but if you are a newbie to Mother’s Day, the proportions are a helpful guide.

French Toast
1 cup of milk
A pinch of salt
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 generous dollop of rum
1 tablespoon brown sugar
8 1/2-inch slices of day old French bread
Powdered sugar (optional)

Serves: 4
Whisk milk, salt, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, rum and sugar until smooth. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Soak bread slices in mixture until well-saturated. Cook the bread on each side for a couple of minutes, until golden brown. Serve with warmed maple syrup and a pinch powdered sugar. Fresh strawberries are always nice, too. Add some rashers of bacon, and you have prepared a veritable feast. Volunteer to wash the dishes, the gesture will be appreciated.

No Fuss Bacon
Preheat the oven to 425° F. Use a wire cooling rack in a half sheet cookie pan – one with edges. Place bacon slices on the rack. We like to use thick-cut bacon these days, otherwise we tend to incinerate the bacon, and even Luke the wonder dog turns his nose up at that. Plop the bacon sheet in the oven for about 15 minutes. Keep checking every 2 or 3 minutes after that, to ensure even cooking. There are no fat spatters on the range top if you cook the bacon this way. There is still a certain amount of denial about cleaning the cookie sheet, but you can sneak it back into the cooled oven for a little while, at any rate…

Skip the mimosas. We are going to plant some wildflowers today, and need to keep our heads about us. Another Diet Coke will suffice.

And be a sport and watch Little Women on PBS Sunday night.

“When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.”
-Erma Bombeck

“I never leaf through a copy of National Geographic without realizing how lucky we are to live in a society where it is traditional to wear clothes.”
-Erma Bombeck